Magners League - Game of the Week
Munster too strong for Cardiff Blues
September 11, 2009
Munster prop Marcus Horan crossed for one of his side's two tries at Thomond Park
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Munster bounced back to winning ways in the Magners League with a 24-13 victory over Cardiff Blues at Thomond Park.
Alan Quinlan returned from the 12-week suspension which saw him miss the Lions tour to help the hosts notch their first win of the seaosn after their surprise loss to Glasgow in last weekend's opening clash of the season.
Quinlan was to the fore of a Munster back row that bossed the breakdown at in Limerick, aided by the brilliantly effective Niall Ronan and try-scoring number eight Denis Leamy. The defending champions scored their first win in this season's competition, with tries from Marcus Horan and Leamy and a 14-point kicking contribution from impressive out-half Jeremy Manning.
Looking to recover from last week's home defeat by Edinburgh, Cardiff racked up 10 points either side of half-time. Xavier Rush got over for a converted try and Ben Blair kicked a penalty to close the gap to 16-13 but Munster, helped by a hungry bench, regained control to chalk up their eighth straight home win in all competitions.
Blues boss Dai Young made five changes from the Edinburgh game, the most notable of which saw Ceri Sweeney slot in at No.10 for Australian Sam Norton-Knight who endured a nightmare debut last week.
There were seasonal debuts for Quinlan and John Hayes as part of three changes for Munster.
The early pressure duly came from the hosts but Manning was off target from a penalty and drop-goal attempt. Defences were on top, particularly in Cardiff's case as Robin Sowden-Taylor and Maama Molitika got up quickly to prevent Munster from gaining momentum.
The stalemate was broken after 18 minutes when an excellent kick chase from the Munster forwards forced Leigh Halfpenny to concede a penalty which Manning slotted over. However, Doug Howlett got isolated on the restart and his countryman Ben Blair kicked the Blues level.
As the first half wore on though, the visitors were the ones making the errors. An accidental offside by Dafydd Hewitt spoiled a superb run out of his 22 from Halfpenny. It was a crucial mistake and from the resulting scrum, Leamy surged forward before a quick recycle saw Horan burrow past Rush for the first try.
Manning kicked the conversion and then fired over a 30-metre penalty, pushing Munster 16-3 ahead after a ruck offence from Rush. But the big New Zealander was back on top form just before half-time. He scored a timely try, arcing his way past Peter Stringer on a fantastic run to the line after Blair's chip and chase had split the defence.
Blair's successful conversion made it 16-10 at half-time and the Kiwi full-back potted a difficult penalty, three minutes into the second half, to continue his side's resurgence. But that was as good as it got for a Cardiff side containing 14 full internationals. They lost Molitika to the sin-bin for a late, shoulder-led challenge on Manning who responded well by kicking the penalty for 19-13.
With their dominance shining through again at the breakdown and set-piece, Munster bided their time and the second try arrived on the hour mark.
A barnstorming burst close to the right touchline from replacement Tony Buckley got the home side within sight of the line and Cardiff's fringe defence gave way at the next phase as Leamy twisted out of a tackle and over.
Manning missed the conversion and Munster lost centre Lifeimi Mafi to the sin-bin for interfering at a Cardiff ruck six minutes from the end, but the Blues found no way of mounting a comeback.